deterministic morality

There are few assumtions I believe to be true that must be taken into account first. More importantly, because I hold these ideas to be true, I found the need to examine the sources of morality and how close can we get to objective morality.

The are a few ideas that I belive to be true. Determinism is the first idea. It doesn’t imply that we can know the outcome of things but it inherently implies things like lack of free will.

No free will

Where does the morality come from?

Civilization is the result of interactions of simpler units, like cultures, cities, communes, families, and people.

Civilization has many emergent properties, some of which are well-defined — like governments, others are very chaotic - like economies.

Morality is one of those emergent properties. It doesn’t come from anywhere and we should not assign any particular sources to morality. The emergent propery of morality may be as complex as our thought processes, our consciousness, and other emergent phenomenons.

I hear this question often. How can a human with no freewill be moral. If he is just a robot and is not responsible for his actions what stops that person from killing someone or do some act that we’d consider immoral. Another facet of this problem is - how can we know what is a good moral principle? Why doing A is better that doing B? This also requires some explanation and a framework.

On the surface our biological form developed certain survival properties that worked better than others. This is expressed in the species that are alive at this very moment and absence of hypotherical alternative species that are not alive. One of these properties are our subjective feelings of joy and pain. They are of course our constructs. In reality these are internal processes that we have assigned labels to - this is the only way to have a concept of joy and pain. Nevertheless, with exclusion of some edge cases, on average, we constantly trying to avoid pain and are trying to experience joy. This is an objective truth of our lives, regardless of what the subjective experience of joy or pain is for each individual. We may all have vastly different experiences, but conceptually there is universal agreement that there are things that we want to experience and thing we want to avoid.

So far there are no contradictions with determinism or with absense of freewill. Our organisms have emerged, mutated and evolved to have certain subjective experiences that objectivly can be classified as good or bad, regardless of internal representations of these experiences. Even if we lie or don’t have complete understanding of our experiences, the external manifestation of our needs is very clear. We say it loud and clear with screams and smiles. As independent agents our behaviors are internally explained and guided. In other words, our survival instincts that help us be here and now have internal subjective manifestations in forms of feelings that we broadcast externally through actions of behavior and language.

Objective morality emerges from this process of communication and need of agents to find common grounds in order to maximise the good and minimize the bad. There are limitations to our thinking, such as biases that also add layers of complexity to this. There are external storage units that people use to store agreements and ideas that emerged from complex interactions. These can be written forms of emergent moral principles. As civilizations are buit generation by generation with help of writing, so did moral codex evolve with the help of communication and writing.

Objective morality is whatever is the emergent collective morality. It has probably changed historically and it will probaly change in the future. Our needs and our pains change through time and evolution, so do our moral principles that emerge from behaviors and feedbacks.

Bible is one of the manifestations of using external storage device to document emergent principles that we call morality. Because we evolve and our underlying behaviors and interactions that are the source of the emergent morality change, so does the morality itself. This is evident in cultural changes that are broader emergent phenomena of civilizations.

Gossip is an optimization mechanism to reputation

Peter Voss Article


There are, however, far more fundamental and legitimate reasons for ethics: To provide purpose and meaning to our lives by helping to define goals in our lives — and then to help guide us to achieve them.

I need to examine this. I haven’t viewed ethics as a driving force for the reasons why we live. Need to explain why do I live. Curriosity?

Principles — generalized rules that have wide applicability — help us make better decisions in complex situations; the best decision ‘all other things being equal’.

if we, for example, automatize self-hatred, superstition or a victim-mentality, then this is surely detrimental.

In summary, a rational, personal morality is both a conscious as well as subconscious aid to defining and achieving our goals and happiness. A guide to our own flourishing — a guide to how to live optimally.

Social rules or customs that are either agreed on by the majority or enforced by some kind of law.
Some authority, usually claimed to be ‘divinely inspired’, that establishes an absolute dogma.
Intuitive, emotional ‘knowledge’ of what is right and wrong — a personal moral compass.
Rational or common sense rules and principles aimed at achieving a given objective.